Category Archives: Tuamotus Islands

Including: Tike Hau,, Rangiroa, Manihi

Peaceful Paradise in Tahanea

Tahanea is peaceful, tranquil, and mesmerizing.  On most days, it called one of the most beautiful places on earth.  Untouched by civilization, rarely visited by man, and generally as God created it.  We’ve spent several weeks here last year and 3 weeks this year.  This an uninhabited island truly reflects the beauty of French Polynesia.

We spent most of our time in the SE corner of Tahanea.  This particular period of time of our visit was during maramu (storm) season.  The majority of the storms come from the SE so we were hiding behind the motus for protection.

As you might recall, the Tuamotus archipelago is made up of dozens of atolls (not islands).  These atolls have passes that lead into a lagoon.  The lagoon is surrounded by a reef and several motus (tiny islands) that separates the Pacific Ocean from the lagoon.  The navionics photo below shows the image of Tahanea.  The green indicates the reef.  The little yellow spots (within the green area) are motus or small islands.  The blue is the lagoon and the red arrow is Sugar Shack.

When you zoom into the chart you can see the difference more clearly.  In the SE corner there are several motus to explore (yellow areas in green section).

Rudderless

There are a few motus that are being harvested for copra (coconuts).  The locals come from other islands and stay for 10-14 days harvesting the coconuts and then go back to their main island.  They set up huts or shacks on the island that really consist of 3 walls and a roof.  The copra farm in front of our boat is a rather large one.

The locals collect the coconuts, husk them, crack open the center, then use a rapier to shred the coconut meat.  They will sell the coconut meat, use the coconut milk and water and dry the coconuts.  It is hard labor for very little reward.

One group of copra farmers had left a dog behind.  Not sure if the dog had wandered off when they left and they forgot or if it was intentional.  The FP population has a different mentality when it comes to animals.  When our friends on Jolly Dogs found this puppy, she had worms, mange and was starving.  They quickly rallied the cruisers to help her.  Mike on “Easy” brought worm medication for her.  Cruisers bathed her and covered her in oil daily.  The oil suffocates the mange.  And everyone has chipped in on the feeding rotations. 

Her name is Lassie and she has an incredibly sweet disposition. She doesn’t bark, but she loves to howl.  She will follow anyone down the beach and will swim out to you to go on a paddle board ride down island.  He mange is slowly disappearing (you can see her hind quarters and tail are hairless).

Mike on “Easy” was kind enough to take her to Fakarava where there is village, more people, and more opportunity for her.  It will give her a much better chance of survival.  Thank goodness.

Baby Boobies

We explored one of the far off motus while we were in the SE corner where we found several baby boobies.  The red foot boobies build their nests in the low hanging branches of the trees.  They are so darn cute and fuzzy.

Swimming with Manta Rays and Marlin

We sailed up to the pass when we had a break in the weather.  We needed a change of scenery and wanted to snorkel the pass.  Last year, we had an amazing opportunity to swim with the mantas and got an up close and personal opportunity. 

This year we swam the same pass, the north pass, and were blessed to swim with two very large mantas.  Unfortunately, they were 12-15 meters deep so I only saw them from the top.  However, our friend Mike on “Easy” is a free diver and was able to see them up close.

Mike was showing off and decided to swim down to a sleeping shark.  The poor shark was peaceful in his sleep and woke up to an intruder.

We had a sundowner / happy hour on Sugar Shack with great friends and libations!

PEACEFUL PARADISE

Matt flew the drone on one particularly calm day.  He captured the sunrise over this peaceful and majestic anchorage.  Mike on “Easy” followed us back to the SE corner to get a prime spot for hiding out from the upcoming storm.  By the end of the day, there were 16 boats anchored here.

Sunrise photos inside the lagoon of Tahanea. 

Kinda takes your breath away…right?

“Easy” and Sugar Shack resting in peace in Tahanea. 

Tahanea's SE Corner

Tahanea’s SE Corner

Bird’s eye view of Sugar Shack from the sky

This post was written in June 2020.  Our blog posts are usually 6 to 7 weeks behind are true adventures. 

Did you miss our other post on Tahanea?  Check it out here.

Tahanea's SE Corner

The Beauty of Tahanea

Our passage leaving Hao toward Tahanea was not ideal.  We left knowing it would not be good weather conditions as we were hoping to beat the maramu scheduled to pommel us.  The first day we had light winds and super confused seas.  The swell was only between 1-1.5 meters but they were coming from every direction.

We were able to fly the main and jib for most of the day, then motored for a few hours.  The trade winds and following seas arrived around 2000 at night.  Usually, I like following seas as the boat surfs down the waves.  But when you still have confused seas that are now 3 meters coming from multiple directions it is no fun.  One wave would hit our stern before the previous wave left our bow which created a serious rolling action of the boat.  I was not a happy camper.

Despite the bad weather and my infirmities, we had a gorgeous sunset the first night.

Day two brought strong winds coming from the SE a perfect direction. However, we had to drop the main and reef the jib because we were going too fast.  If we kept up that pace we would arrive at midnight.  So, we slowed the boat down to arrive at 0400.  Not much better.  The slack tide was 0430, but it was too dark to enter so we drifted for a few hours before entering at day break. 

Since we missed “slack tide” we entered with 3.5kts of outgoing current – pushing against us.  Almost like the atoll did not want us to come in.  But, we prevailed and arrived with no issues.

Passage Details

  • Passage Miles: 220nm
  • Total Miles Travelled: 249nm
  • Max Speed: 10.7kt
  • Average Speed: 5.1kt
  • Moving Time: 48.56

We anchored in the SE corner of Tahanea with 6 other boats in turquoise, calm waters. Life is good.

Hiding in Paradise

We ended up spending 11 days in the southeast corner of Tahanea hiding from the maramu (storms).  Most had a strong southeasterly wind so being behind a motu protected us from most of the winds and waves.  We still managed to see gusts up to 30-35kts.

Each motu received a 360-degree exploration.  Some even had us traipsing through the middle part of the island which was thick with foliage, palm fronts, coconuts, and critters.

Tahanea Scenery

Tahanea Scenery

Most days were rainy and cloudy, but we tried to get off the boat once a day to stretch our legs.  Despite the gloomy clouds and rainy weather, this atoll does not disappoint – it is still gorgeous.

Agape’s Legacy

Our friends, Josh and Rachel onboard Agape were quarantined here in Tahanea for 4 months.  Our friends had to find lots of ways to entertain themselves and keep their bellies full.  They harvested coconuts and used every possible part of the coconut (meat, milk, water, husk) along with fishing and spear fishing to keep everyone fed.  They also built this amazing raft.  When we first encountered it, the raft was buried in the sand. 

But several days later the tide and cleared the sand away and the boys had a little fun.

We left the raft on the beach, where we found it.  However, we must not have pulled it up far enough as it was gone the next morning.  We are in a full moon cycle which means the tides are higher and they must have claimed the raft back to the sea.

SE Corner Activities

It was great fun exploring all of the motus within the Tahanea atoll.  We must have walked around each of them 3 times and some more.  We walked all the way around and through most of them.  They are mostly broken pieces of coral and rock on the leeward side and larger boulders, lava rock, and coral chunks on the windward side.  The interior is full of coconut trees, and palms that have mean, pointy stickers that like to attach to your skin.

We found one motu that had a “sandy corner” sandwiched between the broken coral shores.  It was a gloomy day and we ended up exploring under the rain, but still an adventure.  Matt and I trying to determine if we should head back before the big storm.

It is really cool to see the pools of water between the spits of sand as you look across Tahanea’s lagoon.

View of Sugar Shack from one of the motus.

The winds were strong in the SE corner of Tahanea.  Several people took advantage of the weather and enjoyed kite surfing and kite boarding, which was fabulous to watch.

All the cruisers gathered for several bonfires on shore.  We would cook the fish or conch we caught earlier that day.

CRAB HUNTING

Several of the motus have splotches of areas covered in coconut crab grounds.  The coconut crabs don’t like sun or rain so they mostly come out at night or early in the morning.  One day we decided to go hunting.

Armed with buckets, string and machetes, we headed to the motu.  It was a rather large group which was not conducive for good hunting (too much chatter and foot stomping), but we managed to catch a dozen.

First, you walk into the interior of the island, under the shadow of the coconut trees and in a patch of sand.  You stumble across their large holes first.   You have to be careful because their underground tunnels make the ground weak and you end up sinking to your shins!

Mike, from “Easy” and Helen from “Wow” showed us how to catch them.  Using a string or very thin piece of line you make a lasso or noose.  As the crab comes out, you slip the noose around its big claw and quickly close it around its claw so it cannot get away down the hole. 

Once he is caught, you can either put him in a bucket or kill him (which is more humane).

Once we got our fill, we went to the water’s edge to clean the crabs before taking them to the boat.  We boiled them, then grilled them and had them for a tasty dinner.

A FEW PHOTOS THAT ARE EASY ON THE EYES

The sun rose and set over the motus providing stunning photos.

Sugar Shack at anchor with a spit of land behind her.  It looks like a sandy beach, but it really is covered in broken coral and rocks.  Still a pretty photo.

This post was written in June 2020.  Our blog posts are usually 8 to 10 weeks behind are true adventures. 

Check out more on Tahanea here.

Hanging out in Hao

We decided to rent bicycles during our stay in Hao since we were pretty far from the main village.  We found one place who wanted to rent us electric bikes for 3000xpf a day ($30) per bike.  WTF!  No way, then they came down to 2000xpf per day and we still said no.  So the local proprietor of the pension (hotel) we were at using their internet said she could find a couple of bikes.  Ok.  About 90 minutes later she came back and said ok I have two bikes for $800 ($8) per day.  

They have two wheels so they must be bikes

You know what they say “beggars can’t be choosers.”  My bike was missing a pedal, had no handle grips (so my hands turn orange from the rusty handle bars), no brakes and a bald back tire.  Matt’s bike had a wobbly, flat back tire, no brakes and a chain that was too big and kept falling off.  Both bikes were so old and rusty that there were no repairs to fix our issues – but they got us from point A to B.

Lovely rental bikes

Lovely rental bikes

Hoodoo, Matt, and I decided to ride our bikes to the North end of the island past the airport to the pass.  We were not sure if there is a path that goes the entire way, but we are going to give it the ole college try.

Hoodoo has folding bikes that are pretty rusty but they get them to where they need to go.  So, we hope on our bikes and head out. 

We were totally surprised to find a nice paved path the entire way to the pass.  It was a 7.2mile bike ride, one way and we were rewarded with a beautiful cool breeze by the pass.

Hoodoo at the pass

Hoodoo at the pass

A new boat came in and tied to the basin behind Hoodoo.  They came from Panama and should not have arrived in Hao as their first stop as FP is technically still closed.  Anyway, they begged and asked for forgiveness.  They were each fined and are quarantined to their boat for 14 days.

Making the Lemons out of Lemonade

So, we decided to have a BBQ on the dock, in front of their boat to welcome them to FP.  It was super wonderful as they are from Spain and played amazing Spanish music. 

Beach BBQ

Beach BBQ

A few hours into our evening a couple of local folks came by to join us.  Then it was a “band off” where the locals would play a song then the Spaniards would play a song.  Super unique and amazing experience.

The next day, one of the Spaniards gave a yoga class from his boat.  It was a sorry a$$ attempt with a bunch of misfits, but we stretched our bodies and gave sun salutations.

Nake – The Heart and Soul of Hao

Legend has it that you have not visited Hao until you have visited Nake.  We could not miss out on the opportunity to see if this was true.  Sea Jay, Hoodoo and Sugar Shack all left the confines of the old military basin.  It was a beautiful, sunny day with a strong 20kts of wind coming from the East. 

We hoisted the main sail and unfurled the jib.  It was a blistery sail with us pushing 7-8kts most of the 26nm to the Nake which is the southernmost point of the atoll.

A little over 4 hours later we dropped the hook in 5 meters facing a pretty beach lined with palm trees.  

Hake in Hao

Hake in Hao

There was not much to do or see ashore and there was a very unpleasant odor so we headed back to the boat.  We headed to a new anchorage called Orare which was a little sand bar that stuck out from the motu into the lagoon.  Much prettier spot with better water.

We went for a walk around the motu.  Matt wandered off by himself so I ended up exploring with Yanell and Missy.  On our way back we found signs of Matt.

We found a little area where some locals piled rocks together to make a BBQ pit, table and sitting area.  Really pretty spot.

Main Village of Otepa

We anchored outside the quay just off the main village of Otepa.  This would allow us much better access to the “village, magasins, and internet.”

Hao at dusk

Hao at dusk

This is one of my favorite shots.  We were onshore at the quay looking out at Sugar Shack at anchor during sunset.

Hao at sunset

Hao at sunset

We only stayed one night as we wanted to meet the supply ship which was scheduled to come the next day in town.  The hook was dropped near the village so I could do some internet and try to get our blog up and running again. It has been dark for months because I did not have internet to upload photos and posts. Le Mairie (the Mayor’s Office) offers free internet on the weekends and from 4-9p on the weekdays.  I camped out and made some friends.

Beautiful sunrise over Otepa in Hao.

The Taporo ended up not having any fresh produce, no flour and no beer.  So we basically waited for over a week for nothing which was disappointing.  We decided to move to the pass anchor spot to be prepared to depart at the first opportunity.

Pass Anchorage

It took us several attempts to find a safe anchorage by the pass.  There are lots of reefs, bommies and unsuitable spots.  We finally found a spot to drop the hook.  We were looking for a good weather window to head NW to Tahanea.  Unfortunately, these winds were not in our future.

There are several small motus near the pass.  The bottom photo shows the red and green markers of the pass.

A strong maramu was predicted and we wanted to leave before it came.  We made what some might call a “rash” decision to leave.  Up at dawn we headed out the pass during slack tide.  Not sure you would call this slack tide as there are standing waves bouncing Sugar Shack all over the place.  It was not as scary as others, but certainly not as pleasant as most.

We were given a beautiful sunrise

Wouldn’t you know it – the 2nd supply ship, with the fresh produce was waiting outside the pass as we left.  Some people look for gold at the end of the rainbow, but in these remote islands, we look for the supply ship.

This post was written in June 2020.  Our blog posts are usually 8 to 10 weeks behind are true adventures.  See previous post on Hao.